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Bangladesh-India river trade route in Rajshahi opens Monday

 Published: 11:16, 11 February 2024

Bangladesh-India river trade route in Rajshahi opens Monday

Bangladesh's Rajshahi and India's Murshidabad river route is going to open on Monday aiming at strengthening trade and commerce between Bangladesh and India, the two neighbouring countries.

Sultanganj river port under Godagari Upazila in the district is set to open with the main thrust of strengthening trade and economic ties between the two countries.

Muhammad Shah Alam, Sub Assistant Engineer of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), said initially the river port will be connected to the Maya Port of Murshidabad, India, via the Padma River.

State Minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury is scheduled to inaugurate the river port in the presence of Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Pranay Verma.

Shah Alam said the river port is going to launch under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) as part of the trade agreement between Bangladesh and India.

The protocol was signed in 1972 and renewed on March 31, 2020, to ensure that both countries benefit from their waterways for trade and commerce, he added.

The distance of this route is only 17 kilometres. During the dry season, 200-300 tonnes of goods can be transported in each cargo. During monsoon, transportation of goods will be a bit difficult due to the strong current in the river.

A small ship carrying two tonnes of cotton will depart from Sultanpur port to Maya port on the day of the inauguration, with the return cargo from India to be confirmed in the next couple of days," he added.

BIWTA Assistant Engineer Shah Alam said a control place has already been established at the port ahead of the inauguration.

Apart from this, an approach for the direct loading and unloading of goods onto ships.

Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation AHM Khairuzzaman Liton said they have been working to set up the river port for a long time. It finally happened because of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's sincere efforts.

It will generate job opportunities and lower the prices of different commodities due to the low transportation costs when the river port becomes fully operational.

Mayor Liton said the government has plans to extend the river route to Mongla port and conduct joint capital dredging for the river's navigability by India and Bangladesh.

President of Exporters' and Importers' Association of Chapainawabganj Kazi Shahabuddin said a 500-tonne capacity barge in the river is equivalent to 25 trucks on the road, and barges use less fuel oil. Prices of goods will naturally fall.

Business leaders said the river port will primarily be used to import stones, fly ash, stones, coal, fruits, and spices from India, as well as to export jute and garments.

President of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Masudur Rahman said the river has lost its navigability and must be excavated before the full benefits of the river port can be realised.

He also suggested that the riverport's connectivity be later extended to Rajshahi city, Pabna's Ruppur, and the Mongla port.